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clarkb
Newbie needs help choosing software/hardware
on Sep 24, 2004 at 11:28:08 pm

Hi folks:

I've embarked on a video documentary project about a relative who flew in WWII, and I need some advice as to how to proceed. I have 4 hours of interviews and other footage on my Sony DV camcorder, plus jpegs of war photos and some old US govt footage in VHS format. I want to add music and narration and boil it down to a nice 60-90 minute documentary. I'm a movie buff, but pretty lame when it comes to computers and software, so I definitely need something intuitive and user-friendly. Also, this is just a family project and I don't want to spend $600+ for something like Adobe that is probably way more complex than I need.

I'm looking at all the $100 options -- PowerDirector 3, Pinnacle Studio 9, Sony Vegas, Magix, Ulead, etc. I want the Ken Burns pan-scan feature for the photos, and it sounds like I should have the automatic MPEG-2 coding so that I don't have to load all of that DV from my camera onto my hard drive uncompressed.

On the hardware side, this is where I may be in trouble. My 2-year old Dell XP Pro has a 2GHz Celeron, 256 RAM, and a 40GB hard drive that is less than half full. USB, but no FireWire slot. Not sure if it has a video card, or if that's the same as a video capture card. From what I've read, it sounds like I would need more RAM, maybe a larger (external) hard drive, and certainly some kind of FireWire plug/card. Also, it sounds impossible without a 7200 rpm drive, which I don't even know if I have -- I have two disk drives, CD and CD-RW. I probably need a DVD burner as well. I'm not real confident about opening up the case, either.

The other alternative is to buy a whole new machine for $800 or so, like an HP that's made for video editing. Can't really afford it right now, but I don't want to try to do this on a machine that can't handle an hour or more of video, and it might be a lot easier than me breaking open the case of the Dell and wreaking havoc, not to mention the cost of all of the new components.

So, can you suggest the best route for hardware and software given my limitations of technical skill and budget? At least if I got a new machine, it would have more use beyond this project, whereas the software might only be used once. Thanks in advance.


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D_
Re: Newbie needs help choosing software/hardware
by
on Sep 25, 2004 at 12:55:42 am

Sounds like a great project. Your 2-year old machine should be up to the trick. You will NEED to add a firewire card and additional hard disk. You may want to add additional memory but you can actually scrape by with what you have if price is a large factor. You only need a DVD burner if you plan to make DVDs. You can edit in MPEG if you plan to make DVDs, otherwise stick to the DV format if you plan to output to video tape. (You can always convert to DV format--it will take a lot of time, but you can't go from MPEG back to DV without a loss in quality.)

I cannot recommend the Pinnacle product due to a number of folks having weird problems. If your system works with the Pinnacle right off the bat, you are in luck, if not, it could be MANY wasted hours trying to get it to work.

Ulead's product works great out of the box. I recommend you find it with a product bundle though, don't buy it alone.

With that said, I recommend the ADS Pyro 1394DV card. It used to be on sale here at Videoguys, but I don't see it anymore. You can pick at just about any store. Here is the link to the ADS site. ADS Pyro 1394.

I also recommend the Pyro A/V link for getting Analog video into your machine. It comes bundled with Ulead's Video Studio DVD version. You can see it here at Videoguys. There is even a $25 rebate right now. Pyro A/V Link

Finally, as far as getting another drive. You can go with an external drive or internal. Any 7200RPM drive should work, and you can decide how big you want to go. 160GB or 250GB should be a good start.

You can buy your parts at new egg or my favorite, Mwave.

Good Luck getting up and running!

(BTW, if you want to start off with the most powerful software for a great price, the Pyro A/V Link can be purchased with an Adobe Triple set software package at a steal of a price. Just check the link above.)

Dylan


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Kenneth Daves
Re: Newbie needs help choosing software/hardware
on Sep 26, 2004 at 3:26:01 am

The least expensive way to do a one-time project like yours is to have a professional do it for you. Otherwise, you have no choice but to invest in some hardware.


If you decide to try to upgrade your system, then you will need a firewire card, a DVD burner and a second hard drive.

The Pioneer A08 shown here http://www.videoguys.com/pioneer.html looks like a good deal, particularly because the Video Studio 8 software meets the needs you described. You should be able to find an external fire wire hard drive for about $150 and a fire wire adapter for $60 or less.




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clarkb
Re: Newbie needs help choosing software/hardware
on Sep 27, 2004 at 4:17:45 pm

Thanks, guys -- not sure I understood a single word either of you said. Hence my problem doing this myself.

I've thought about hiring someone to do this, but I just don't see how I can maintain control over the final product. The story will be told in the editing, what to include, what not to, how to juxtapose, etc. Unless I spend hours looking over the shoulder of this techie, I'm just handing it over to him to develop the story.

Also, I managed to record the analog tape excerpts onto my DV camcorder using the A/V cords that came with it -- seems to have worked fine. So I no longer need to worry about any analog input into the computer, correct?

So if I try to do this on the existing machine, it appears I will need the following:

1. A FireWire card like the ADS Pyro 1394. That has to be installed inside the machine and has a single FireWire plug?

2. A DVD burner like the Pioneer A08. Is that internal or external? If internal, what do I do with the CD and CDRW drives currently in the machine? If external, what do I plug it into if there is only one FireWire plug?

3. A second hard drive of ~200MB -- again, internal or external? If external, same question as above. And is this only for the large video files to be stored on? This is preferable to partitioning the existing hard drive?

4. More RAM -- it appears going to 512k makes sense. I thought all RAM was the same, but someone told me I had to get it from Dell or it might not work in my machine -- true?

5. Software -- So the Pioneer product comes with Ulead, I wouldn't need to buy a separate program? I've seen some negative comments about Pinnacle, but also a lot of positive reviews. And no comment on Power Director, which also has outstanding reviews?

So the big problems I see are actually installing all of this crap in my Dell -- I installed RAM on another machine some years ago and it was a nightmare trying to work inside that box. Secondly, won't the cost of all this approach the cost of the new computer anyway?

Thanks again.


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Kenneth Daves
Re: Newbie needs help choosing software/hardware
on Sep 27, 2004 at 7:50:41 pm

I mentioned the Pioneer A08 with the Ulead software because Ulead's Video Studio 8 would seem to meet the needs you described, including having the pan and zoom feature for photo's. I don't know that the product is superior to other programs because I haven't tried the others. You can download trial/evaluation copies of most programs to pick the one you like the most.

You can find out the features for the Pioneer A08 by going to the web page I listed. Also, you can find out about the ADS Pyro fire wire card by going to ADS Tech's web page.

If you are going to do more than just this one project, then you certainly would be better off getting a new computer. As it is, I have no idea whether or not your current computer can be adapted to edit the video. The Intel Celeron was not designed to do heavy-duty graphics such as video editing and 3D gaming. Also, I have no idea whether or not your power supply and cooling system are adequate. The people to ask about that (as well as about the RAM) are at Dell.


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clarkb
Re: Thanks; some comments
on Sep 27, 2004 at 11:59:15 pm

Thanks for the advice. For anyone else who cares, here are some additional data points from checking reviews, user comment boards, and talking with Videoguys tech support and Pinnacle pre-sales.

1. I might be able to make due with the current Dell machine, but several people noted that the Celeron processors is not recommended for video editing. Add to that the need to buy a second hard drive, a FireWire card, a DVD burner and more RAM (even if I didn't need to install all of that internally), and the cost is probably $500 or more, damn close to the cost of a new machine. Also, the Dell has always been a little glitchy with simple music CD burning, (buffer overruns, etc.) although it improved when I updated the drivers. But overall I've never been very happy with this computer and won't buy Dell again.

2. From everything I've read, Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus sounds like it has the best feature set for what I need, and the best ease of use. The Plus edition supposedly has the photo pan-scan I wanted. It is by far the market leader. However, there are tons of negative reviews from users about one rather critical area -- DVD burning. Hundreds of people say it simply seizes up or crashes repeatedly at that step. Pinnacle claims that's been fixed with the latest version, and another guy said it's the result of clueless users (like me) with inadequate hardware. Probably some of both. In any event, it is worrisome, and I have been warned.

3. Ulead appears to be a close second, but with not as good a feature set. Power Director 3 also gets some high marks, but they haven't been around long and appear to be weak in some areas.

So looks like I should suck it up and get the new machine, especially since my wife uses the current one for work and I might mess her up for weeks by busting into it. Thanks again for the advice.


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D_
Re: Thanks; some comments
by
on Sep 28, 2004 at 12:24:28 pm

Forewarned is forearmed. Pinacle has a great interface and is easy to use. However, it will leave you wanting more if you really get into the video. Ulead can do everything the Pinnacle can do, including pans and whatnot, but it takes more effort to make the same things happen. But there is more capability in reserve.

With that in mind, if you decide to go with Pinnacle and a new machine, please see if you can find someone with a fairly new setup that has a WORKING and trouble-free setup.

Further, be advised that not all 1394 cards work well with video. So make sure your system is built with video in mind wherever you may purchase it.

You are correct in that you do not need analog inputs if you have copied your footage to DV. You can also probably use your DV recorder as a pass-through DV converter. (No need to first copy the source to tape.)

A new machine dedicated to video is going to cost quite a bit more than $500. That additonal RAM, bigger multiple harddrives, and extra monitor will all add up. I would be surprised if you could get away with a full system for less than $2K.

All in all, video is a fun, yet demanding activity. Done well, and no one will ever know how much effort took to make a good product. Done sloppily and you'll never want to watch the same product twice...

Good Luck and thanks for posting your findings.

Dylan



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